Wheat & Tares: Who Are We?

By: hawkgrrrl
June 19, 2012

A blog often asks these types of questions:

  • Who is our audience? How do we attract them?  What will our community look like?  Who’s in and who’s out?  How can we be inclusive, yet create belonging?
  • What’s our intention toward our audience? To change minds?  To learn from others?  What types of discussions do we want to have?
  • What behaviours are allowed? When is someone crossing the line?  What are the rules and consequences for breaking them?

When we first launched the site it was based on the premise of Wheat & Tares.  The parable cautions:  ”pluck not up the tares while the blade is yet tender (for verily your faith is weak), lest you destroy the wheat also. Therefore, let the wheat and the tares grow together until the harvest is full ripe.”  One of our founding principles is a very light moderation policy.

What does wheat look like?  What does a tare look like?  From a 7th-day Adventist Site, I found this image:

It’s fairly hard to tell which is which, except of course that the wheat in this image is ripe and golden, whereas tares don’t ripen to a golden yellow.  That’s the point really.  We’re all tares on this earth until we ripen and are then harvested (based on who or what we’ve become).  It’s too close to call in the meantime, and it ain’t over until the fat lady sings.  We might be wheat or we might be something that looks like wheat but doesn’t actually contribute positively to society.  The difference is that people have capacity (unlike tares) to actually change our nature.  And people do change their nature, all the time.  In that original post, I shared an example from Victor Frankl’s book Man’s Search for Meaning.  He talked about Nazi collaborators who devoted their lives to providing care for and saving others after the war.  He talked about people who were victimized by the war machine and left prison camps only to spend their lives after the war in bitter disregard for others.

Not only is it hard for someone looking at a tare to realize it’s not wheat, but even the tare may think it’s wheat!  People (with few exceptions) have good intentions.  When I think about our bloggers, one commonality is that we all share an optimism about humanity.  Some believe in the church; some don’t (and Fire Tag belongs to the Community of Christ).  Some are active; some aren’t. What we all agree on is that belief alone isn’t what makes us want to engage in discussion with someone.

Why participate in the bloggernacle?

A recent weekend poll got an interesting response from friend and M* blogger, Bruce Nielson. J Max at Sixteen Small Stones also talked about the Sunstone and bloggernacle participation, debating the dubious merits of public debate when souls are at stake.

J. Max made a pretty good case for why we shouldn’t participate in online blogging.  Those arguments essentially boil down to the following:

  • Not in front of the children! Do believing members (like J Max, Bruce, I, and many LDS bloggers) want to make any discontent google-able?  Are we bringing the matches to the bonfire of our beliefs?  Are we painting a bulls-eye on our beloved church by discussing its flaws?  It seems to me that we have more to gain by discussing things in an even-handed way than we do by self-censoring or squelching discontent.  The illusion of perfection is suspicious.  The party line is the enemy of authenticity.  That’s tough to swallow in a PR focused church, but look no further than the “I’m a Mormon” campaign.  Diversity beats sameness.
  • Lie down with dogs, get fleas.  The argument that there are wolves among us and that some have a hard time distinguishing between duplicitous bad actors and lost sheep is a valid point.  But I don’t believe most people are evil geniuses (stupid maybe, but not evil).  There are a few misguided bulls in the China shop, but that doesn’t mean we should close up the shop and only drink from plastic tumblers. We’re grown ups.  Mostly.
  • Stewing in our own juices.  I think this is a valid point.  Blogs that strive for like-mindedness often have a lot of meaningless “attaboy” comments vs. actual discussion.  As Beatrice says in Much Ado About Nothing:  ”I’d rather hear my dog bark at a crow than a man swear he loves me.”  But I’ve certainly seen this behaviour on both sides of the belief spectrum.  Personally, I think the caution is to avoid the siren song of the echo chamber, on either side of the faith spectrum.

What is our “safe zone”?

Bruce has discussed “safe zones” that blogs create based on their desired (and presumably like-minded) audience.  For example, there are sites that moderate so heavily that your comment is assumed guilty until proven innocent. If you’ve ever gotten a note that “Your comment is awaiting moderation,” you know what I mean.  Conversely, go to FLAK or RFM and try leaving a positive remark; you might be seen as naive or even misconstrued as sarcastic.  Is it really true that LDS blogs can only be safe to individuals who fit within a few standard deviations on a faith spectrum?  Is faithfulness the most important distinguishing characteristic on LDS blogs?  Are we all reducible to the strength of our testimony?  I’d like to think there’s more to people than that.  Our faith isn’t the only thing that unites us or divides us.  But if not our faith, then what?

A site like Wheat & Tares with a deliberately syncretic approach (inviting both wheat & tares, in our case) naturally has an amphibious safe zone.  Like all amphibians, though, we live near the water line.

Site Rules

In the movie Cider House Rules workmen are subject to a list of rules that is posted on the wall of the bunk house.  However, none of the workers are literate, so they don’t actually know what the rules are.  Trying to put together a code of behaviour for the blog is similar.  People just sort of figure these things out on their own.  Capturing culture in writing seems destined to fail, like a company handing out a pen with a slogan on it; the slogan often doesn’t match reality.

But I’ll give it a shot anyway.

Our welcome mat is out:  Wheat & Tares are both welcome.  We aren’t doing a lot of weeding out.  Of course, most people think they are wheat, even if they are not.

Wheat behaviour

  • Inclusion. We don’t draw boundaries based on politics or belief or how smart you are or where you live.  If you want to be here, we want you to be here.  Until you behave boorishly, we assume the best! (The only exception is that if you include more than 2 links or a bogus email address, our spam filter will think you are not a real person).
  • “You like me; you really like me!” Use the like buttons to encourage comments you think are insightful, funny, powerful, or generally contribute to the discussion or site in a positive way.  What we feed, grows.
  • Tolerance and patience.  We don’t like dirty fighting.  We don’t like histrionics and drama.  We don’t like appeals to authority.  We’re all grown ups.  People will stand or fall on the merits of their arguments.  Play nice.  The rules are pretty much the same as Kindergarten.  Refresh your memory if necessary.
  • Respect for differing viewpoints.  Listening to other viewpoints isn’t unsafe or threatening.  If you want to be heard, start by listening.  This is an LDS issues blog, so expect to hear from people with all different views on LDS issues.  Even though the LDS church is a missionary church, we’re just ordinary people; we don’t work in the church’s PR department.
  • Neglect is our weapon of choice.  We would rather starve a weak argument than feed it.  But if you have interesting ideas, you’ll get your day in the sun here.  It takes a lot to get voted off the island.   We’re not big on knee-jerk reactions.  It’s possible to be put in a time out, but extremely rare.  Why?  Because we think the quality of comments is mostly self-evident.  Why kick you out when you’ve already made an ass of yourself?

Tare behaviour

  • Cliquishness or a clubby atmosphere.  We don’t ban people we don’t like.  We try really hard to like you and to figure out why we don’t like you if we don’t.  And guess what?  People are mostly likeable.
  • “Attaboy” comments.  If you’re blogging to feel good about yourself, save the trouble and call your mother.  Have the courage to put yourself out there, warts and all.  Real people are much more interesting.  This is the upside to the “like” buttons; no attaboys are required.
  • Testimony bearing as a weapon.  Blech.  That’s taking something sacred and using it to win an argument on a blog.  Grody.
  • Simmer down.  It’s only a blog.  Lives aren’t at stake.  We’re pretty confident that nothing said here is going to rattle the foundations of civilization. Don’t get too worked up about commenting. There are other ways to support the mental health profession.
  • Chupacabras not welcome.  We may not weed out the tares, but if there’s a truly evil force lurking in the field, sucking the blood out of the goats, we reserve the right to take stronger action.  We have yet to see a chupacabra in action, though.  This may be a mythical creature.  It’s certainly rare.
  • Crop circles. Sometimes people like to play pranks in the field, manipulating others or using sock puppets to bolster their arguments. Just don’t.  We run a blog, and we’re not idiots.
  • Get off our soap box. An OP is the blogger’s soap box, not yours.  This is an open swim party for all, but we own the pool. Don’t pee in it.  If you have a hobby horse topic you want addressed, ask us about taking it on or offer to guest post.  We just might take you up on it!
  • Archnemeses.  If you have a commenter who brings out your Irish or gets your dander up, just walk away.  We didn’t come here to watch you two going at it.  Get a room!  And chances are your foe is no Lex Luthor, and you’re no Man of Steel.

**We have talked at length about killing the “dislike” button feature, and it’s something we may experiment with.  The “like” button fills more or less the same need anyway.  More to follow on this.

Do these rules really describe the culture of the site?  Is there anything you think is missing?  Are there rules here you don’t like?  Are our rules different or the same as the other sites you visit?  Do you feel like you know what to expect?

Discuss.

Tags: , , , , ,

74 Responses to Wheat & Tares: Who Are We?

  1. Stephen Marsh on June 19, 2012 at 6:22 AM

    “Chupacabras” — that is a great word for trolls and similar types ;)

    Did you know that “Chupacabras” are sighted from time to time and turn out to actually be coyotes with incredibly bad mange?

    I think the same is true of posting Chupacabras — they just have really bad mental mange.

    Great post Hawk.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 4

  2. Stephen Marsh on June 19, 2012 at 6:25 AM

    I would also note that we like nuance in discussion and broader topics within or from the the LDS perspective, such as the various “ring” posts on topics.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  3. Jenn on June 19, 2012 at 8:13 AM

    I’m not quite a blurker, nor do I comment on every post I read, nor have have I ever posted on W&T.
    But I will say: let blurkers feel welcome. The bloggernacle is not just about discussion- for some, it’s about reading something more thought-provoking than whatever you got out of subbing in Nursery last Sunday, or finding out that other people out there feel the same way you do, or realizing that your opinion is different, and solidifying WHY it is different. These might be completely internal processes, but still very valuable. I say, keep up the good work, bloggernacle!

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 6

  4. Bonnie on June 19, 2012 at 8:23 AM

    When we are truly secure with our viewpoint, we glow golden in the fire of debate. Only chaff burns quickly. I have opened my mind, changed it, been confirmed in it, and grown in the open environment of the ‘nacle. Ironically, it has made me much more independent. I respect that it does not affect everyone that way. The Greek aphorism “Know Thyself” (even if it far predates the Greeks) seems apropos. I genuinely hope more people will intelligently and respectfully engage. After all, even in our faith we voluntarily go into the “fire” for purification.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  5. Bonnie on June 19, 2012 at 8:25 AM

    Jenn, that’s why we have “like” buttons! We’re glad you’re here, silent or speaking.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  6. Mike S on June 19, 2012 at 8:29 AM

    Attaboy, hawk :-)

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 9

  7. Howard on June 19, 2012 at 8:30 AM

    Orthodoxy is not inclusive and inclusive is not orthodox. Orthodoxy seeks to exclude and often chooses to opt out of inclusion. The LDS orthodox argument is faith based the heterodoxy argument is logic based. When an apologetic orthodox argument is made in an arena of logic it typically quickly degrades to spin and sometimes lying for Christ, the orthodox position is better served by sharing testimony or presenting what scripture or prophets say. From my view much is to be gained from a discussion of both viewpoints but it is difficult to keep the orthodox in the discussion, they seem to prefer to retreat to their echo chamber sanctuaries.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 5

  8. Mike S on June 19, 2012 at 8:35 AM

    Sorry, couldn’t resist.

    Jenn (and anyone else), we’re glad you’re here. I lurk on various places – nothing wrong with that. If you ever want to chime in, feel free.

    I like W&T, as I like to explore the amphibious area. I appreciate what I hear in Church each week, but there are certain things that are just not appropriate to discuss in that particular setting. And I also don’t like more “anti” sites, be they anti-Church, anti-Republican, anti-democrat, anti-whatever. Sometimes particular posts may tilt one way or another, but in general, you can be both-feet-in towards the Church, or both-feet-out, or just a toe in the water, or whatever, and still hang out here.

    Thanks to all those who hang out here – whether posting, commenting, lurking, reading, passing along interesting links, or whatever.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 5

  9. Andrew S on June 19, 2012 at 8:48 AM

    re 7:

    Howard,

    whoa there man. I don’t think we can say that “echo chambers” fit one group or another — the tendency to exclude is something that every group has to grapple with…some groups may be explicitly more OK with how they have excluded and whom they have excluded, but it’s not really fair to say that one group does it, and other groups don’t.

    I’ve seen plenty of non-orthodox ‘echo chamber sanctuaries.’

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 8

  10. Bonnie on June 19, 2012 at 8:48 AM

    Oh, I disagree completely, Howard. I come from a deeply orthodox perspective and I don’t think I bash people with my testimony. I think the key to inclusive debate in religion is the key to inclusive debate on anything: the realization that the debate does not change us until we choose to be changed, so there is no need to become fearful. Without fear, we speak with respect and security. Only fearful people retreat to sarcasm, defining what other people think, and other forms of attack. Apologetic arguments have as much place in logical debate as do any other arguments – Nibley made that his life’s work. That not everyone is there yet is a no-brainer. We’re all working on it. Our intermittent failures don’t negate the efficacy of the argument.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 3

  11. Howard on June 19, 2012 at 9:06 AM

    Andrew I said nothing about “echo chambers” fitting one group or another.

    Bonnie I said nothing about bashing people with testimony.

    The main point I’m making is orthodoxy by definition excludes therefore they tend to opt out of an inclusive forum. Also LDS orthodoxy is faith based not logic based.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  12. Andrew S on June 19, 2012 at 9:12 AM

    re 11,

    Howard,

    Then I misread your comment, and particularly this point:

    From my view much is to be gained from a discussion of both viewpoints but it is difficult to keep the orthodox in the discussion, they seem to prefer to retreat to their echo chamber sanctuaries.

    and the point you make here:

    The main point I’m making is orthodoxy by definition excludes therefore they tend to opt out of an inclusive forum.

    Quite simply, however you want to say it, I don’t think these are tendencies that can be uniquely attributed to orthodox folks. The ONLY possible concession I might be comfortable with making is not that the orthodox exclude by definition, but rather that they are more upfront about exclusion, while everyone else talks a good deal about inclusion, but may not realize when and if they are excluding others.

    That’s why, here at W&T, we keep on talking about what inclusion really entails…what it really takes to make it work…because it’s not easy.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 4

  13. Bonnie on June 19, 2012 at 9:13 AM

    It’s true, Howard. LDS orthodoxy is faith-based rather than logic-based. Because of that, appeals to prophetic sources are logically acceptable. And you are right to note that some faith-based individuals (like insecure individuals in any venue) will retreat to their “echo chamber sanctuaries.” Our point is that we are not that. The OP is a codification of our philosophy that faith-based argument can not only withstand logical discussion but be strengthened by it. Your observation that it’s difficult to keep the orthodox in the discussion flies in the face of everything we’re doing. I’m here. Discussing. We want everyone who wants to be here. Discussing.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  14. Howard on June 19, 2012 at 9:24 AM

    Andrew,
    Well I dunno in practice you may be right about orthodox simply being more upfront about exclusion but in accepting that point you are implying that W&T is simply less upfront in their exclusion! Given W&Ts stated goal to be inclusive this concept creates quite a bit of tension. That is what I am pointing out; tension exists between the concept of orthodox and the concept od inclusive.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  15. Howard on June 19, 2012 at 9:32 AM

    Bonnie,
    I love your attitude about this but; …faith-based argument can not only withstand logical discussion but be strengthened by it. If this is true why does the church sweep so much controversy under the rug?

    The point of Bruce Nielson’s 52% post seemed to be W&T is not doing it and my point is the tension between orthodox and inclusive must be dealt with to do it! And I salute and support W&T for attempting to do it.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 3

  16. Howard on June 19, 2012 at 9:43 AM

    It might be interesting for W&T to post one OP with two different threads attached to it one with the current moderation policy and the other with a more exclusive orthodox/conservative based moderation policy so that two completely different but parallel conversations are taking place at the same time.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  17. Bonnie on June 19, 2012 at 9:43 AM

    Howard, here’s my take on it. The Church is an institution of faith, a repository of doctrine and covenants. By definition it is orthodoxy. It isn’t tasked with making every logical argument, just as it isn’t tasked with fighting wars or a multitude of other things that we are tasked with. That’s the purview of its members, and why we are told to seek learning, by study and by faith. That’s a personal journey.

    So, we do that in our own ways, the ‘nacle being one option for people whose “study” runs in that direction. Just as there are personal opinions apostles can’t make public anymore (I think Neal Maxwell’s silence on politics must have been very hard for him), the church has a responsibility to focus on doing its job: building faith. That doesn’t mean we, as individuals who espouse that faith, sweep controversy under the rug.

    And thanks for your salutation. We’re glad you’re here.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  18. hawkgrrrl on June 19, 2012 at 9:44 AM

    I feel like we just got defanged with the dislike buttons gone. Anyone else missing them?? It’s not like I’m even wanting to dislike anyone’s comment right now, but I like knowing that I could . . . if I wanted to.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 11

  19. hawkgrrrl on June 19, 2012 at 9:45 AM

    Also, maybe we should rename the site “Wheat and Bastard Wheat.”

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 5

  20. Mike S on June 19, 2012 at 9:57 AM

    #11 Howard: The main point I’m making is orthodoxy by definition excludes therefore they tend to opt out of an inclusive forum. Also LDS orthodoxy is faith based not logic based.

    I think this goes both ways. While I agree that orthodoxy excludes by definition, in reality, the other end of the spectrum also excludes. Many “liberals” are just as dogmatic in their exclusion of “conservatives” as the converse. This is easily seen in the LDS-blog world – a “TBM post” on an “anti” site will be shouted down just as much as an “anti” post on a “TBM” site. I see W&T as trying to not be either, but to accept either as long as there is respect.

    And it’s not just LDS orthodoxy that is faith-based, but ALL religions are essentially faith-based. We have faith that certain beliefs and actions will lead to some result, without necessarily knowing ahead of time that that is the case.

    Even in a system like Buddhism, where there is not an explicit belief in God, faith is important. Buddha taught that “faith is the beginning of all good things”. And in the words of another Buddhist teacher that applies perfectly to the role of W&T:

    “To develop a verified faith we need to open to the messiness, the discordance, the ambivalence, and, above all, the vital life-force of questioning. If we don’t, our faith can wither. If we don’t, our faith will always remain in the hands of someone else, as something we borrow or abjure, but not as something we claim fully as our own.”

    To me, this is much more powerful in developing ourselves individually than comments like “when the prophet speaks, the thinking is done.”

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 5

  21. Mike S on June 19, 2012 at 9:59 AM

    #18 hawk: I feel like we just got defanged with the dislike buttons gone. Anyone else missing them??

    I actually miss them. I used dislike extremely rarely, but if someone said a comment that was completely out-of-line, it was a way to: 1) let them know and 2) let the community know that this type of comment is unacceptable. Given our hands-off policy on commenting, I think it did serve that purpose, in trying to “guide” discussions away from inappropriate comments short of actually deleting them or banning them.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 10

  22. Becca on June 19, 2012 at 10:14 AM

    The OP said, “J. Max made a pretty good case for why we shouldn’t participate in online blogging”

    Perhaps that was a typo, or not what the OP meant, but that’s absolutely not what his case was about at all. J. Max’s case was against the “bloggernacle” – not blogging in general (obviously, since he is still blogging). I think he made an excellent case for carefully choosing the blogging/online venues in which you participate.

    Some of your rebuttals to J.Max’s points seemed sarcastic and snarky, and a little immature. For example,

    “Not in front of the children!” – J. Max’s argument (and I agree with his point on this one) is not that we should squash out dissent or discontent or disagreement, rather that we should not be flaunting our disagreement and discontent in front of the entire world. I agree that we should have a place to discuss these kinds of differences, they should not and need not be stomped out. But we should be careful where we discuss them.

    All that aside, I really enjoyed this post. I think every blog in the “bloggernacle” should write a similar post explaining themselves.

    Honestly, it gives W&T a LOT of extra points in my book (being one who is occasionally a lurker of the bloggernacle). I am pleasantly surprised to see how much I actually agree with how W&T runs its “business”. I just might have to come around more often…

    And I have to wholeheartedly agree with Jenn – I think lurkers are almost a more important audience than contributors. 1.) They are more numerous, 2.) they are usually the ones coming with questions and may (or may not) find answers through the blog they find. “Contributers”, in my experience, are not *usually* coming with honest questions – they are usually coming to add their 2 cents to the conversation. Which is beneficial as well, because it usually adds to the conversation, which helps the lurkers find answers to their questions (I speak as one who has been in both positions – a lurker who found answers to her questions through a comment, and a commenter whose remarks helped a lurker answer their questions – or at least find more insight). Which is one of the reasons I enjoy parts of the bloggernacle. Not all of it, but some of it.

    I hope to enjoy more of W&T after this refreshingly open and honest piece. Again, well done. And thank you.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  23. Howard on June 19, 2012 at 10:14 AM

    Mike,
    I agree with your comment #20 and I like the Buddhist quote of opening to the messiness and likening it to W&T’s mission but I think opening to the messiness is much easier for heterodox than orthodox. Faith based is often largely unexamined, to open one’s belief to the messiness calls for introspection and contemplation.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 3

  24. KLC on June 19, 2012 at 10:40 AM

    I think Wilson makes a good point that is usually ignored when discussing online behavior. There is an audience out there and ignoring that is to miss a fundamental component of the dynamic that plays out.

    It isn’t a casual conversation among friends who drop by, it’s more like stand up comedy. The OP, like the comic at the mic, riffs on something; the homies weigh in with their attaboys, like applause and laughter from the audience; and occasionally a dissenter or just a questioner shows up, and like a heckler he’s treated with sarcasm, dismissal and scorn by the comic and the audience.

    If you want to understand what goes on online don’t think your living room, think The Comedy Store.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  25. Michael on June 19, 2012 at 10:56 AM

    Perhaps I am confused. As an LDS convert of 30 plus years I had a very difficult time understanding these arguments that orthodoxy is faith based or that religion is not supposed to be logic (i.e. reason-based). The Gospel (not limiting it to just religion) is based upon BOTH faith and reason. We are commanded to use both. In fact, the only way I gained a testimony of the Restored Gospel was by using both.

    If I rely totally upon faith to define my testimony of LDS Christianity then I am both a fool and an idiot. Reason is what informed my faith and vice versa. This is where I get frustrated with current church culture and teachings. We are commanded to seek truth by study, prayer, faith and reason. To open the door to using the Holy Ghost as a teacher we need to exhibit and master certain behavioral character traits such as humility, meekness and charity.

    This artificial separation of faith and reason into separate worlds or separate “echo chambers” is totally foreign to me.

    When I first investigated the Church I was asked to totally immerse myself in reason and prayer to determine the truthfulness of the BoM and the Prophet Joseph. I was asked to re-consider all the wonderful Catholic teachings of my youth.

    After I joined the Church and became a member I am told to now just rely upon faith and current prophetic counsel and to discard reason. My faithfulness is not to be measured based upon the Gospel and a continuing open search for truth but, instead, adherence to behaviors and beliefs promulgated by a handbook and not essential to LDS Christianity.

    Sorry, W&T exists to provide balance and true questioning. It does not exist to ensure conformity and teach a false sense of what true faith encompasses.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 10

  26. Michael on June 19, 2012 at 10:57 AM

    And I would strongly suggest bringing the dislike buttons back.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 6

  27. Andrew S on June 19, 2012 at 11:10 AM

    re 14,

    Howard,

    That’s exactly why we have posts like this. If you haven’t done so, you might want to check Bruce Nielson’s posts that Hawkgrrrl linked to — because part of his critique is to suggest that we are exclusive precisely because we (statistically speaking…and I don’t really agree wit his methodology) aren’t orthodox believers.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  28. Becca on June 19, 2012 at 11:16 AM

    It’s ironic that you are talking about bring back the “dislike” buttons, since, well, YOU said:

    “Neglect is our weapon of choice. We would rather starve a weak argument than feed it. But if you have interesting ideas, you’ll get your day in the sun here. It takes a lot to get voted off the island. We’re not big on knee-jerk reactions. It’s possible to be put in a time out, but extremely rare. Why? Because we think the quality of comments is mostly self-evident. Why kick you out when you’ve already made an @#!*% of yourself?”

    Which would suggest a lack of need for the dislike buttons…

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  29. Howard on June 19, 2012 at 11:18 AM

    After I joined the Church and became a member I am told to now just rely upon faith and current prophetic counsel and to discard reason. This is one of the problems and it might be even bigger problem for you had you been born and raised in the church naively rarely experiencing the use of both reason and faith as a basis for your belief.

    Another problem is; controversies do not stand up well to reason, that’s what makes them controversial.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 3

  30. Andrew S on June 19, 2012 at 11:19 AM

    Regarding dislike buttons, I will say (just a few hours into this brave new world), that the comments section looks weird without a dislike button to “balance” the like button.

    However, I think this will be an interesting experience for us…I’m hoping that it will change how conversation goes around here…

    Let me put it in this way. Hawkgrrrl wrote that one reason we have like buttons is so that we don’t necessarily have tons of “attaboy” comments. So, it’s helpful and useful to have a “silent” like option.

    But we don’t want to do the same thing with dislikes. We don’t want people silently and anonymously disliking…rather, we’d rather have people comment about what they disliked and own up to that.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  31. Will on June 19, 2012 at 11:24 AM

    Don’t kill the dislike button, that is like giving every kid a trophy. Take it from one who leads the pack with dislikes.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 12

  32. SteveS on June 19, 2012 at 11:26 AM

    I dislike the comments that like not having a dislike button.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 7

  33. Howard on June 19, 2012 at 11:35 AM

    Andrew,
    Yes and I’m suggesting that if that is true the reason is orthodox believers self select to opt out because W&T has made it clear that they are welcome here.

    M on the other hand has a comment policy that mirrors the church’s: we expect those comments to uplift, rather than tear down. It sounds good but in practice it is used to silence decent resulting in a echo chamber of like minded Pollyanna denial.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  34. Becca on June 19, 2012 at 11:42 AM

    Re: Howard’s comment #29

    I was born and raised in the Church and have always been encouraged to use faith and reason (most specifically by our stake patriarch, but also by parents, other leaders, friends, etc).

    I either had a unique experience in the Church, or those with experiences like mine don’t participate in the bloggernacle (and I would be more willing to assume that it is the latter, as I know people personally who have had similar experiences).

    There is a thin line between cynicism and realism. And we often confuse the two, and I think that is part of the disconnect between the two extremes among members of the Church, both on and offline – most (not all) of the bloggernacle seems jaded and cynical. On the other hand, there are many members of the Church seem naive and convinced that the Church can do no wrong.

    The Church (or rather, the gospel) teaches that no one is perfect, people make mistakes (even the prophets of the Old Testament, and the apostles of Christ in the New Testament were chastised occasionally) – but that mistakes themselves don’t make us hypocrites, nor do they invalidate the true things that are said/done.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  35. Becca on June 19, 2012 at 11:45 AM

    RE: the dislike button

    Many blogs have “recommend” buttons, etc (similar to the like button).

    And I have to say I completely agree with Andrew who said, “We don’t want people silently and anonymously disliking…rather, we’d rather have people comment about what they disliked and own up to that.”

    There’s not much fun in a discussion where people just throw rotten tomatoes at the person if they don’t agree, or don’t like what he/she said. (dislike button = throwing rotten tomatoes).

    Full Disclosure: I have used the dislike button.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  36. Andrew S on June 19, 2012 at 11:47 AM

    re 31, 32,

    Will, SteveS, and other fans of the dislike button:

    I don’t think that getting rid of the dislike button is like giving everyone a trophy. After all, people are still allowed to explicitly state their disagreements with others. What this should do is eliminate “drive by dislikes.”

    Now, maybe in a week or so, we’ll find that people are *all too* eager to express why they disliked someone comments, and we might find that even more annoying than drive by dislikes…who knows?

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 5

  37. Howard on June 19, 2012 at 11:50 AM

    Becca,
    I agree and btw I’m not attempting to judge them I’m analyzing this issue because I’m trying to figure out how to blend orthodox and heterodox into a single ongoing blog.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  38. Becca on June 19, 2012 at 12:01 PM

    Howard, I was not in any way suggesting that you were being judgmental. :) I was simply stating that I feel like my experience in the Church has been different from what I see represented, which is frustrating for me (I am sure we all have moments when we feel underrepresented in a community that we feel strongly about).

    I am very interested in these labels “orthodox” and “heterodox” because I think that what many people label as “orthodox Mormonism” is not what actually is orthodox Mormonism. What the Mormon culture “teaches” or espouses, and what the gospel of Jesus Christ teaches are often at odds with one another. Frequently when I hear people talk about “orthodox Mormonism”, I don’t agree with their definition of “orthodox”.

    I am really interested in the orthodox/heterodox discussion and what is meant by those terms.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  39. Howard on June 19, 2012 at 12:13 PM

    Becca,
    Well I use orthodox when I mean the church’s stated position and I also use both terms relatively mostly to discuss somewhat opposing mind sets similar to using conservative and liberal in a political discussion.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  40. Michael on June 19, 2012 at 12:14 PM

    Becca (#34),

    With the greatest respect I am glad you have been taught to use both faith and reason. However, there are five current areas where the Church refuses to provide reasons for its policies and / or doctrine:

    1) The REASON for the priesthood ban.
    2) The REASON for the position on gays being defective individuals.
    3) The REASONING behind the statement in the Proclamation that “Gender is Eternal”
    4) The REASON for the limited leadership roles for women in the Church.
    5) The REASON for the allowance of polygamy in the Eternities but not in this life.

    The challenge is that the Brethren don’t want to provide the reasoning behind certain decisions or policies. They don’t want to pro-actively address the logic.

    For example, is the ban on multiple sets of earrings reflective of the Will of the Lord or is it President Hinckley’s opinion? Why has it become church policy at BYU and EFY and Trek and stake dances if it is not the Will of the Lord. And why is it OK for women to mutilate themselves with one set of earrings but it is prohibited for men to perform the same mutilation. What is the reasoning behind such madness?

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 5

  41. Cowboy on June 19, 2012 at 12:50 PM

    Michael:

    I often hear people say that they used both “logic/reason” and “faith” to support their acceptance of the Restoration. As your most recent comment points out however (#40), how does one employ logic/reason on issues that are completely without explanation?

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  42. Nick Literski on June 19, 2012 at 1:01 PM

    Now, maybe in a week or so, we’ll find that people are *all too* eager to express why they disliked someone comments, and we might find that even more annoying than drive by dislikes…who knows?

    So, look forward to the new format! Something like:
    _______, that was the most ignorant, asinine, egotistical comment I’ve read all day. Why on earth do you have to be such an outright ass to anyone who dares disagree with your dogma?

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  43. Mike S on June 19, 2012 at 1:02 PM

    #34 Becca: …most (not all) of the bloggernacle seems jaded and cynical.

    I think that this, to a large extent, is why the bloggernacle exists. Imagine a continuum:

    completely out-of-church . . . . .. . questioning some aspects . . . . . . . .completely toe-the-line
    < .....................................................................................................................................>

    For someone completely OUT of the Church, with no further interest in Mormonism on any level, the bloggernacle has no purpose. This group of people have “moved on” and found something else in their life with meaning to them.

    For someone who completely “toes-the-line”, there is also very little purpose for the bloggernacle. These folks get great fulfillment out of Sunday and other meetings, primarily (exclusively?) read Church-published or Church-approved materials. They have satisfaction and meaning in their lives and truly don’t care about (or don’t want to discuss) the issues often brought up here.

    While leaves the middle group. These are people for whom Mormonism still has meaning. These are people who still respect the Church and the gospel, but wonder about different things. They may be very active. They may be less-active. But these are the people who self-select out to places like this.

    Are they cynical and jaded? Perhaps, but it depends on what you mean by that. In all my time on W&T, I’ve never seen a post attacking Joseph Smith and the veracity of his vision and experience. I’ve never seen a post suggesting that the prophet and apostles are evil men out to serve their own interests. I’ve never seen a post questioning the existence of God. The posts I have seen have, almost without exception, been very respectful towards to gospel, our fellowman, etc.

    But I have seen posts (and have written posts) questioning aspects of the institution of the Church that seem to have minimal relationship with the actual gospel. What is the point of the number of earrings? Should a religious institution be spending billions on malls? Should we have private for-profit hunting preserves? Was the ban on blacks and the priesthood truly a God-instituted thing? Etc.

    Is it cynical to question and talk about these things? Perhaps. But there really isn’t any other forum. Again, people out of the church don’t care how many earrings someone has – and people on the other end will conflate questioning a statement by a prophet (like earrings) with questioning that leader and approaching apostasy.

    And who’s left? Us.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 8

  44. Michael on June 19, 2012 at 1:20 PM

    Cowboy, (#41)

    I disagree. There are explanations. The Proclamation on the Family was written by a committee of Seventies and chaired by an Apostle. That statement was discussed, reviewed and (hopefully) prayed over by the Brethren. The most recent general conference described exactly how the Brethren use the “consultative approach” to arrive at doctrine. So the actual writing of the document included significant reasoning. Now, when they included the section that stated that gender is important and that gender is eternal what did they exactly mean by “gender” and how did they determine it was eternal. This is a completely new doctrine not found in the scriptures. So where did it come from? How did they determine it is eternal? What was the thought process and reasoning behind the statement?

    The Catholics have a whole area called the Magisterium which determines its doctrines using the same tools as the LDS Church (faith, scriptures, tradition & the Holy Ghost). However, unlike us, the Catholics provide detailed encyclicals and papers which allow their members to understand what is the reasoning part and what is the faith (or what they call the mystery) part.

    There is an explanation for almost all of those things I cite above. The church does not want to be bothered providing it, they just want the issues ignored.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 4

  45. Martin on June 19, 2012 at 1:54 PM

    I guess I don’t entirely understand the aversion to “attaboys”. Sometimes they come across as cheering somebody on in a schoolyard fight (“hit ‘em, Frankie!”), and sometimes they can be used set boundaries between groups of people (“we’re with you, Frankie, you tell ‘em”), and I can see how those can be detracting. But I’ve read many great posts that got me thinking but which didn’t necessarily incite a whole lot of discussion or controversy, and I think it’s good form to express appreciation for such. I want those to keep getting written. Also, I think most people who blog do want a little validation.

    Generally, the only time I feel I have something worth saying is when I happen to disagree in part (like now!), and just disagreeing all the time seems, well, not very appreciative.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  46. Andrew S on June 19, 2012 at 2:04 PM

    re 45,

    Martin,

    I may blog for different reasons for other people, but I definitely am looking for discussion and (sometimes) commentary. So, if I have a post that gets people thinking, but apparently not enough to incite a whole lot of discussion, then I believe that as an author, I have failed. Attaboys will not console me in these instances.

    So, let’s take this comment of yours for example. You say, “Generally, the only time I feel I have something worth saying is when I happen to disagree in part (like now!), and just disagreeing all the time seems, well, not very appreciative.” But to me, the fact that you took the time to comment, to really put substance to your position in a thoughtful, polite way — that is one of the most appreciative acts I can think of.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  47. Martin on June 19, 2012 at 2:17 PM

    Michael,

    “The challenge is that the Brethren don’t want to provide the reasoning behind certain decisions or policies. They don’t want to pro-actively address the logic.”

    I think there’s truth to this. Explaining the logic can be risky, as the priesthood ban demonstrated. A lot of regrettable stuff was said that was turned on its ear later. Much better to have said nothing (and, in my opinion, not to have had the ban at all).

    Likewise, explaining stuff like marriage and gender roles in the eternities is fraught with peril, because it’s likely nobody knows much about it, including them. But that doesn’t necessarily mean their conclusions are wrong. Even if an angel confirmed the PoF, they couldn’t give any more logical explanations, they could only say “thus saith the angel”, and you’d be right back to faith.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 3

  48. Michael on June 19, 2012 at 3:02 PM

    Martin, are you not discounting and limiting the calling of the Brethren as prophets, seers and revelators by stating they could not give any more logical explanations? The Doctrine & Covenants as well as the Pearl of Great Price are chock full of answers to contradictions or perplexing questions faced by the Saints earlier in our dispensation.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  49. Stephen M (Ethesis) on June 19, 2012 at 3:30 PM

    Muchael, I think you are too limiting. Perhaps they are still working out the meaning and encouraging us to participate in working it out and in prayer.

    I think that insisting on concrete completeness before it applies is not appropriate and can appear petulant.

    As for earrings and mutilation I think you read too much into cultural markers. And demand too much permanence from them.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  50. Brian on June 19, 2012 at 4:31 PM

    Some of the polls on W&T lately have led me to believe that many of the readers here are non-believers(I would be interested in that poll). I post here because RfM is not interested in honestly discussing the church pro and con. My wife remains active while I am an inactive, non-believer. The church will never leave my life, whether I want it to or not. I appreciate the fact that, while my infrequent posts may annoy some believers, there is relative freedom of expression here and other-than-faithful posts are acceptable.

    For me, BCC does not generally welcome negativity and Times and Seasons simply has boring topics. W&T and esp Hawk are the best.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  51. Cowboy on June 19, 2012 at 4:40 PM

    Okay Michael, this is easy. Logically explain to me the reasons behind the Priesthood ban as per your comment, #40.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  52. Cowboy on June 19, 2012 at 4:41 PM

    P.S. – and do so within the context of how the current Church leaders have adressed that issue.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  53. Jeremiah S on June 19, 2012 at 5:02 PM

    I’ll comment on only one part of the OP. As a recovering cynic, I really like the idea of only having a like button. It’s very positive. I’m not advocating fake niceness–dislikes can definitely be handled with responses in the thread.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  54. Mormon Heretic on June 19, 2012 at 5:54 PM

    I think this experiment without dislikes is worthwhile, but I fear that Nick in 42 may be on to something. Some people may not be very tactful in their disagreement with a comment. (Of course we have that problem now, but we will have to see if it gets worse.)

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  55. Andrew S on June 19, 2012 at 5:56 PM

    re 54,

    MH,

    I think that even if people end up not being tactful with disagreeing in comments, that’s a lot better to check than dislikes — after all, we can attach it to a name.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  56. hawkgrrrl on June 19, 2012 at 8:00 PM

    As to the dislikes, I’m up for sticking with the experiment. However, given the dichotomous approach (wheat and tares, pro and con, balance) it’s a little off to only have likes. But I like a good experiment!

    Becca, I take your point about my snarkiness and immaturity. You should have seen my first draft! I’m kidding. His first argument is probably better distilled into the idea that we are casting our pearls before swine or loading our enemies guns. It’s a point I take seriously, although I ultimately disagree about what makes us look better. That’s a topic that could be its own post, and I reduced it to a sound bite. That’s not because I don’t take it seriously, though. It just wasn’t my focus here.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  57. Natsy on June 20, 2012 at 1:35 AM

    On phone, so please disregard typos…..I loved this post. I’m fairly new to the bloggernacle and it has been life changing for me. I love the dissenting views- it opens my mind and expands my view. I appreciate the TBM posts as well as the opposite views. I don’t feel in danger from this, in fact it has helped me be more at ease with church, I actually feel like going and participating again because I have all these new things to think about.

    IMO: I like just having the “like” button. I want to know what people are thinking.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  58. [...] invited to participate in a panel on the ways that online Mormon communities create boundaries. Hawkgrrrl covered this topic a bit yesterday, so I hope you aren’t burnt out on the discussion (and I hope that I can provide something [...]

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  59. joe on June 20, 2012 at 8:38 AM

    i like this site better without jeff spector

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  60. Andrew S on June 20, 2012 at 8:43 AM

    re 59,

    joe,

    you want to provide any explanation behind that comment?

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  61. Howard on June 20, 2012 at 8:50 AM

    I miss Jeff, where is he?

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  62. Andrew S on June 20, 2012 at 8:59 AM

    Jeff was last seen hauling logs (err…drums) with his son. it builds character, I think. his summer vacation appear appropriately summer-y, appropriately vacation-y.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  63. Heber13 on June 20, 2012 at 6:57 PM

    Is there a difference between Like/Dislike buttons and Agree and Disagree?

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  64. Andrew S on June 20, 2012 at 7:43 PM

    re 63,

    Heber13,

    Our intention with like/dislike buttons was to have them be more about tone/validity of argumentation. With this understanding, I can say that there are many comments I have liked, but which I disagreed with, because I felt the commenter still expressed things very reasonably.

    On the other hand, there have been commenters I’ve agreed with, but whose comments I’ve *cringed* at, because even though I agreed with their conclusion, I thought they had really crappy, alienating, or dismissive tone.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  65. hawkgrrrl on June 20, 2012 at 7:51 PM

    Maybe agree / disagree is a good alternative.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  66. Heber13 on June 20, 2012 at 8:26 PM

    …sounds like another experiment?

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  67. Jon on June 21, 2012 at 9:03 AM

    Having been on the “wild” side of posting and almost having been censured I just wanted to point out the inconsistencies with which this happens and why I appreciate that W&T has a fairly liberal allowance of what people say.

    Apparently I can be off putting in many of my comments, which I agree, discussion in the real world vs blogs are entirely two different things.

    In a discussion on whether Mitt Romney was a bully or not I brought up some uncomfortable view points on how bullying in the public sphere should not be viewed differently than bullying in the private sphere, I did so in a rhetorical manner. I got many down votes for this comment. I asked why. Someone finally said why, and I disagreed with that view point because that person was not able to show how I could state my comment in a more “respectful” manner which led me to believe (and still do) that it wasn’t the manner in which I wrote the comment but was the content of the comment. Since put just down voted my comment instead of actually commenting and explaining I was left to whatever ideas in my own head why I believed that was the case.

    Now, fast forward some time and hawkgrrrl posted a post on listening to an apostle speak. In the thread to that post I also asked some uncomfortable questions in a similar manner which I gave in the Romney post but on this new post I was given many up votes but no down votes. This has led me to believe that it isn’t necessarily the manner in which I write comments but that when it comes to politics people are more uncomfortable questioning core assumptions, but when it comes to religion people are more willing to live with questioning of core assumptions.

    I would like to add also that I don’t like the down votes simply because it is seems to be the lazy man’s weapon of choice rather than using logic and reason to refute someone’s claims. Like in the first post, I had no idea and only one person would come forward with a refutation and the refutation was weak at best because it did not provide an alternative to the manner in which I wrote my comment.

    I believe that if a down vote is given to a comment the person down voting should at least have the respect of saying why they are down voting, but this doesn’t seem to be the case.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  68. Jon on June 21, 2012 at 9:16 AM

    Mike S, #43,

    I would say it would be nice to see a post questioning the existence of God. I guess I like to question everything. Maybe that’s why I enjoy listening to Mormon Stories because of the questioning spirit there. It would be nice to have more faithful people be interviewed on it too, but it seems the faithful don’t want to be? Like one interview talked about all the bad things Joseph did (or were rumored to have done) as fact. Well, there’s another side to it found in the book that claims Joseph never practiced polygamy. I asked them to be interviewed on the Mormon Stories podcast (Dehlin said in the interview that he would be willing to interview someone with an opposing view point) but the person that wrote the book it isn’t their strong point to be interviewed but to write books.

    So, I would appreciate even more questioning of everything with perspectives from all sides.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  69. Jon on June 21, 2012 at 9:25 AM

    I think this experiment without dislikes is worthwhile, but I fear that Nick in 42 may be on to something. Some people may not be very tactful in their disagreement with a comment. (Of course we have that problem now, but we will have to see if it gets worse.)

    Isn’t just pressing a dislike button without an explanation of the dislike a bit tactless in and of itself?

    As for missing people. Where has JMB been?

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  70. Andrew S on June 21, 2012 at 10:29 AM

    jmb is off conducting mad science experiments as a rocket scientist or something.

    …at least, that’s what I imagine an aerospace engineering grad program as being like…

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  71. Jon on June 21, 2012 at 4:21 PM

    @Andrew,

    Yeah, some of that rocket science can be pretty interesting. I worked for ATK in Utah for a couple of years working on “designing” the electronics for the Ares project. For the people that really get to design it is pretty interesting stuff. I don’t recall what degree JMB was, I remember it was engineering oriented. Bet he’s happy to out of the school and making money!

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  72. [...] Mormon faith, exposing parts of a conversation that has been occurring behind the scenes for weeks. Hawk has articulated who we are with guidelines that we’ll post to the site permanently. Andrew [...]

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  73. [...] Mormon faith, exposing parts of a conversation that has been occurring behind the scenes for weeks. Hawk has articulated who we are with guidelines that we’ll post to the site permanently. Andrew [...]

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  74. jmb275 on June 25, 2012 at 5:53 PM

    Re #69 Jon
    Just saw this. I do occasionally check in. I wish I was out making money, but I’m still in school. I have no idea why. It’s ridiculous.

    Life has recently dealt me a rather difficult set of cards that culminated just a few months ago. I do hope to rejoin the blogging world in the near future. ::crosses fingers::

    Re #70 Andrew

    jmb is off conducting mad science experiments as a rocket scientist or something.

    Yes, yes, that’s exactly what I do! Everyday, it’s like mad scientist meets the Wright Brothers! In reality, aerospace is typically divided up into 3 sub-disciplines: structures, gas dynamics (aerodynamics), and dynamics and control. My focus is on dynamics and control, and as such I deal primarily with control, guidance, and navigation of autonomous small unmanned aircraft.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

Leave a Reply

Subscribe without commenting

Archives

%d bloggers like this: